Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday leftovers

While writing Sunday’s piece about the Browns victory over Pittsburgh, it occurred to me more than a few times that the Steelers tried mightily to give away the victory.

Rather than make it the crux of the piece, I figured this was a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers for goodness sakes. How often do the Browns beat the Steelers?

Leave it alone, I told myself. Let the fans enjoy this one. What difference does it make how they won the game?

They won.

And then I read something early Monday that made me think again on the matter. Yahoo Sports pro football guru Mike Silver wrote it in his Morning Rush column. Way down at the bottom, in a category entitled Things I Can’t Comprehend, he wrote the following about the Browns-Steelers game:

(I Can’t Comprehend) How the Cleveland Browns could force eight turnovers – including one fumble from each of the team’s four running backs – and still have to sweat out a 20-14 victory . . . The outcome might have been reversed had a dubious down-by-contact call not negated a late Trent Richardson fumble (which Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, out of timeouts, was powerless to challenge). “Eight (expletive) turnovers and we won by only six at home,” said one frustrated Cleveland offensive starter. Added a defensive starter: “We should have scored 50 points.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized my initial reaction was closer to the correct reaction.  So . . .

On second thought . . .

The Browns could have – and should have – won this one by a much larger margin instead of putting their fans though another fourth-quarter nightmare.

How? This is where the Browns started their drives following a Pittsburgh turnover and the end result of that drive. You be the judge.

First quarter, 11:38 left, the Browns start at their 44 following a Rashard Mendenhall fumble and score on a Phil Dawson 29-yard field goal.

Second quarter, 13:41 left, the Browns start at the Pittsburgh 10 following an Isaac Redman fumble and score three plays later on a five-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron.

Second quarter, 3:12 left, the Browns start at the Pittsburgh 34 following a Jonathan Dwyer fumble, go three and out and punt.

Third quarter, 7:05 left, the Browns start at the Pittsburgh 32 following an interception and Richardson scores on a 15-yard run up the middle on the third play.

Fourth quarter, 11:59 left, the Browns start at their 26 following an interception and punt six plays later.

Fourth quarter, 3:00 left, the Browns start at their 19 following an interception and punt after another three and out.

Fourth quarter, 2:25 left, the Browns start at the Pittsburgh 40 following a Chris Rainey fumble and rack up another three and out.

The eighth turnover was inconsequential because it occurred on the last play of the game when the Steelers were locked in desperation mode.

The Browns left many points on the field because of timid play calling by Pat Shurmur. It was almost as though the Cleveland coach was afraid his rookie quarterback would make a critical mistake against the savvy Pittsburgh defense.

The Steelers’ defense had to be angry at the offense because they were back on the field before they could cool off. And the Cleveland defense, which outshone the Pittsburgh defense, had to be angry at the offense for not putting more points on the board.

The Browns started five of their 15 drives in Pittsburgh territory, and three others that began from around their 40, and came away with just 17 points. Eight drives within 60 yards of the Pittsburgh goal line and a paltry 17 points.

Seven of their last eight possessions ended in a punt by Reggie Hodges, who had 10 on the afternoon. Their longest drive was 44 yards and took 10 plays, taking 5:34 off the clock. Twelve of their 15 possessions lasted less than three minutes.

The way Shurmur called the game, especially in the fourth quarter after Brandon Weeden suffered a possible concussion late in the quarter, how could anyone come away not thinking he was coaching not to lose?

Coaching defensively is coaching passively. And that will lose you more games in the National Football League than it’ll win you.

Such conservatism has cost Shurmur in other games this season. In this one, he was awfully lucky Ben Roethlisberger was in street clothes on the Pittsburgh sideline.
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Has anyone noticed how slow Richardson is to the hole? His initial burst needs more burst. Perhaps that’s why the hole isn’t there when he arrives at what at one time was an opening.

Too many times this season we have seen Richardson just duck his head into a pile of bodies and try to muscle his way through. Players on opposing teams say the rookie is hard to bring down, but it sure would be nice to see him avoid tacklers rather than trying to go through them.

It’s hard to say whether he sees other holes rather than the prescribed one since he rarely bounces plays outside. Watching him try hard on a weekly basis is painful. In the last two games, he has run the ball 57 times for 180 yards. That’s 3.16 yards a tote. That also is unacceptable. With that many carries, he should be around 230.
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Loved the reason the Browns gave for cancelling their Inflatable White Flag promotion for the Steelers game.

“After further and careful consideration, we felt it was in the best interests of everyone involved that we not have a giveaway item at (Sunday’s) game,” team spokesman Neil Gulkis said. “It is something that was intended for fun for out fans and something they could rally around and we regret that some didn’t perceive it that way.”

That’s right. Blame someone else for hooking up with a gimmick that represents the international symbol for surrender. Just admit it was a mistake and move on. Don’t blame others. Look in the mirror for the blame.

The “some who didn’t perceive it that way” most likely were some of the team’s players. Said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, “I’m not a fan of the white flags. It’s just not a message that I like and I’m sure a lot of the other guys don’t approve of.”
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What in the world happened to the Browns penalty discipline? Ten penalties for 90 yards in the Pittsburgh game? Five holding penalties on the offensive line? What’s going on here?

Offensive line coach George Warhop has some explaining to do. That is totally unacceptable. It kills any momentum a team is trying to generate. Where is the discipline?
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Notebook: The Browns were lucky the Steelers were out of timeouts and couldn’t challenge Richardson’s fumble right before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. The ball definitely was out, but the whistle blew the play dead. A replay would have given the ball to the Steelers. . . . Correction (since made) in Sunday’s gamer: The Steelers averaged nearly 140 (not 160) yards a game rushing in the last five games before the Browns loss. . . . Will Dawson ever miss a field goal this season? He’s perfect on 21 attempts, including five of 50 yards or more. . . . So long to Mike Holmgren, whose legacy as the Browns’ president is a 12-31 record. He’s a Hall of Fame coach who stepped way out of his league when he said yes to Randy Lerner. Suffice it to say he won’t be missed.

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